Pancreatic lipase is an enzyme secreted from the pancreas that uses hydrolysis to break a part fat molecules. Bile salts secreted from the liver and stored in gallbladder are released into the duodenum where they coat fat droplets. Because the droplets are small, their surface area is greater, allowing the lipase to break apart the fat more effectively. The resulting monomers are then moved by way of peristalsis along the small intestine to be absorbed into the lymphatic system by a specialized vessel called a lacteal.
Pancreatic lipase is secreted into the duodenum through the duct system of the pancreas. Normally lipase concentration in serum is very low. Under extreme disruption of pancreatic function, such as pancreatitis or pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the pancreas may begin to autolyse and release pancreatic enzymes into serum. Thus, through measurement of serum concentration of pancreatic lipase, pancreatitis can be diagnosed.
A blood test for lipase is ordered, often along with an amylase test, to help diagnose and monitor acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), chronic pancreatitis, and other disorders that involve the pancreas.
Lipase testing is also occasionally used in the diagnosis and follow-up of cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease.